Reflections on the Dental Pipeline Program¿s Efforts Regarding Underrepresented Minority Dental Students

In this article from a supplement to the Journal of Dental Education, Dr. Marc Nivet asserts, “The Pipeline Program was a tremendous success,” as he reflects on lessons learned from the groundbreaking effort to increase diversity in dental schools. Dr. Nivet is the Chief Diversity Officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Calling the Pipeline, Profession and Practice: Community-Based Dental Education program “the most significant experiment to date to help U.S. dental schools better address societal needs,” Dr. Nivet reviews the supplement’s later chapters.

Key Findings:

  • Any one element of a diversity program is not sufficient; it is the combination of efforts over time that can transform the profession, is Dr. Nivet’s takeaway from Chapter 9. He adds, the potential of institutional culture to inhibit diversity must also be examined.
  • Chapter 10 recounts efforts to overhaul dental school admissions, starting with an admissions’ mission statement that targets diversity and aligns with an institution-wide diversity mission statement. According to Dr. Nivet, most importantly, this chapter details the process of holistic application review and suggests what many “have known for years:” over reliance on standardized tests limits the pool of talented applicants.
  • Reviewing Chapter 12 on academic enrichment programs, Dr. Nivet notes various types of programs are successful but must be adapted to the unique situation of each school. He commends the authors for including geographically-diverse examples of both public and private schools.
  • In Chapter 11, Dr. Nivet believes the review of diversity efforts at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry is a case study of how to make “diversity and inclusion synonymous with institutional excellence and viability.”

Despite the success of the Pipeline program, Dr. Nivet notes it is not clear if there will be “ripple effects” going forward and that such impact is always difficult to measure.